ABI Alien Clearing Programme
Invasive alien clearing, under the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) banner, has started up again across the Agulhas Plain. The alien clearing project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust (the Coordination Unit and Secretariat of ABI), with funds for the clearing operations sourced from the Department of Environmental Affairs.
That means that around 160 project participants are back in the natural landscapes across the Plain. They’ll be clearing around 15,000 hectares over the next four months.
The project is once again operating according to an innovative model: the Flower Valley team works with nine conservancies and land user groups, who in turn work with their landowner members.
Through this model, Flower Valley Conservation Trust (a Public Benefit Organisation) serves as the implementing agent, the key contact with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
The conservancies play a major role in rolling out and implementing the project, and provide extensive co-funding to the clearing operations.
The nine conservancies are:
The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative is a landscape initiative, structured as a voluntary association that serves the Overberg area. ABI has four themes according to which it works, the first being integrated land-use planning, including the clearing of invasive species.
Alien invasives are one of the biggest threats to the Overberg’s natural landscapes – especially the area’s threatened fynbos vegetation.
From 2013, the ABI Alien Clearing Project has cleared approximately 30,000 hectares per year up to 2016. Since then, the Flower Valley team has been in constant communications with the Department of Environmental Affairs, to ensure the gains made in the past are not lost.
Landowners and municipalities are now required to have a plan to control invasive species on their properties, and have an obligation to remove these species.
New National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) regulations came into force on 1 October 2016. According to the new laws, invasive species are now considered a legal liability to property owners.
The new regulations also states that property sellers must inform potential buyers of invasive species that are found on the property, thereby encouraging estate agents to play a role in encouraging the sale of properties that are clear of invasive species.
An updated invasive species list was also published, replacing older lists. The new list categorises 379 invasive terrestial and fresh water plant species, and a further 4 invasive marine plant species. The species are categorised as Category 1a, 1b, 2 or 3 species.
Flower Valley has coordinated the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme over the past three years, working with government, landowners and project participants to clear invasive species on around 30,000 hectares a year.
The programme forms part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Land User Incentive Scheme. While the Department provided the funding for the clearing work and the transport, land users and other stakeholders involved provided co-funding commitments and ensured the programme was rolled out successfully.
The programme ended during 2016. Negotiations are ongoing with the Department for the next three year cycle. Annual clearing plans have been developed with landowners and other stakeholders for the next three years, prioritising biodiversity-rich areas that require follow-up clearing work. It’s hoped clearing operations will start within the coming weeks.
Invasive aliens plants in the Overberg.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) have teamed up to tackle invasive alien plants in the Overberg.
The partners are working together to develop systems to detect and identify invasive alien plants in the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme-area in the Overberg. Flower Valley Conservation Trust coordinates ABI.
Through support from the Table Mountain Fund (an associated Trust of WWF-South Africa), the partners are also finding ways to monitor invasive alien specie populations, the areas in which they grow, and how the population densities change over time, while capturing invasive alien clearing data in a way that is not administratively burdensome for land users.
A researcher is now being sought to evaluate existing monitoring and evaluation tools used by Working for Water, and other organisations. From here, cost effective and scientifically robust methodologies will be developed that land users can make use of.
Through the position, landowners and other stakeholders will also receive training support on how to control invasive alien species on private land.
Working for Water programmes are generally known to in some instances include costly record-keeping tools that have heavy administrative requirements. Many of these tools cannot be optimally used by private landowners. It’s hoped through this project to develop user-friendly ways for landowners to capture and record their information.
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Evergreen Kangaroo Paw
A new invasive plant species has been identified on the Agulhas Plain. The Evergreen Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) has been located on two properties in the area. Although the species has not yet been listed as an invasive plant under the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), it is considered a threat to the Western Cape.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is now working with Flower Valley Conservation Trust to control and look to eradicate this species on the properties. These two partners will now work closely in piloting efficient treatment and control measures, which will include data collection on treatments, population size and the rate of spread. Flower Valley coordinates the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme.
The Kangaroo Paw stems from Southwest Australia, although it is commercially grown in other countries throughout the world, including the USA and Japan. It is used as an ornamental flower, with some of its artificial hybrids used for the cut-flower market.
Due to its adaptability to different soil types, and ability to cope with water stress, it is considered a threat. The species is also immune to most fungal attacks. It’s believed that the species can be eradicated from the Agulhas Plain, given that it is believed to not have spread beyond the two properties as yet.
The Agulhas Plain, where the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project is taking place, has been selected as the pilot study site to investigate the use of invasive alien plant biomass for energy.
The ABI Alien Clearing Project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust. Through the project, around 30,000 hectares of land are being cleared of invasive alien plants every year. The project is also creating around 160 jobs for project participants. The majority of the funding was secured from the Department of Environmental Affairs, through its Land User Incentive Scheme. However, landowners and other stakeholders involved in the project are providing co-funding.
The project, currently in its third year, has resulted in a considerable amount of alien plant biomass being left in the veld. Experts believe this biomass could be used and converted to various energy products.
In order to assess this opportunity, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in a study funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs, will now investigate how much invasive alien plant biomass is available in the area. The ABI Alien Clearing Project is operating on private land across the Agulhas Plain, the region between Hermanus and De Hoop.
According to Dr William Stafford of the CSIR at the ABI Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday, 24 June, the CSIR study will also investigate the feasibility of biomass to energy projects, looking at the opportunities for local or regional energy use, versus supplying the national grid. Additional products from biomass, including heat, charcoal and biochar, will be considered.
Dr Stafford said, “There are 160 million dry tons of invasive plants standing on the landscape in South Africa. And these invasives are spreading at 10 percent per year. That’s a ten-fold increase if we do nothing.” He said that Working for Water programmes had managed to reduce that spread by one percent. “But we want zero percent growth – that’s the ideal situation.” The study will be completed by end-March 2016.
ABI, a landscape initiative working across the Overberg region, has been operating since 2003. The ABI Partnership works together to secure a productive and healthy natural environment in the area, and includes landowners, government department officials, officials from CapeNature and SANParks, and NGOs. ABI is chaired by Agri Wes-Cape President, Cornie Swart.
The threat of invasive alien plants on the Agulhas Plain was central at a two-day workshop held between government, landowners and non-governmental organisations in April. The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) hosted the workshop aimed at strengthening invasive alien management in the area. This was the first get-together of its kind in the region. (more…)